Conservation Matters – Conservation Matters is the title of of our conservation column in the bi-monthly OPAS Harlequin Happenings newsletter. We will post our column every two months for you to read.
This column is from the January – February 2020 edition of the Harlequin Happenings newsletter.
by Bob Phreaner
Since the Nov/Dec. issue of Harlequin Happenings there have been several developments that deserve your attention. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Mary Porter-Solberg, my former Conservation Committee Co-chair, you can stay informed of Conservation News and opportunities to take action by visiting our olybird.org website.
- On November 8 we submitted comments to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regarding the Cooke Aquaculture proposal to use marine net pens for growing triploid Steelhead in the Salish Sea. We focused our five concerns on the Port Angeles site.
- On December 3 the Board of Natural Resources passed the Marbled Murrelet Long Term Conservation Strategy Alternative H by a 4 –2 vote. Twenty-two years have passed since the “interim” conservation strategy was put into place for the Marbled Murrelet (MAMU).
- On December 5 the Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (H.R. 2642) passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee. The legislation was introduced by Senator Patty Murray and Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) in May, and would permanently protect more than 126,500 acres of Olympic National Forest as wilderness and 19 rivers and their major tributaries –a total of 464 river miles –as Wild and Scenic Rivers. I urge you to use the olybird.org Conservation Action Alert tab to thank our representatives for their initiative.
- On December 17 OPAS wrote Olympic National Park to reiterate our March 19 comment that the preferred alternative for the relocation of the Olympic Hot Springs Road will result in the removal of up to fifty old growth trees that could provide nesting platforms for Marbled Murrelet. We have asked for a MAMU nesting season survey which has not been conducted since 1990.
- On December 23 the Clallam County Department of Community Development examiner postponed his decision on the Dungeness Bay oyster farm until January 10, 2020.The OPAS Conservation Committee advocates for Climate Change solutions.
For the February 3, 2020 meeting we have invited Adam Maxwell from the Audubon WA Climate Campaign to discuss how to take action to support healthy birds and healthy communities, and how to rally our community in support of natural climate solutions. All OPAS members are invited to attend this 1 PM session at DRAC.
White Winter Wings
by Judith White
Wintering Trumpeter Swans and occasional Snow Geese arrive around Thanksgiving to a warm welcome on the North Olympic Peninsula. Their graceful white wings are unique, as well as their characteristic noisy flight calls! They can often be seen in family groups and larger flocks foraging in agricultural fields, pasture, and wetlands around Sequim.
Trumpeter Swans are the largest native North American waterfowl, and their conservation story is inspiring. Historically abundant, they were hunted for feathers and skins, and by 1935 the known United States population numbered only 69 individuals. According to the Trumpeter Swan Society, dedicated conservation, including protected status, habitat conservation and management, discovery of some remaining birds in Alaska, and reintroduction programs have slowly increased the total population to 63,000 individuals. The Pacific Coast population of 24,200 birds breeds in Alaska and winters on the pacific coast; 11,700 are found in the Rocky Mountain population, and the Interior population of 27,055 is growing by virtue of reintroduction programs.
Trumpeter Swans live about 25-30 years, have single broods, and sexual maturity takes several years, so population growth takes time. The first Trumpeter Swan sighting on the Sequim Dungeness Christmas Bird Count (SDCBC) wasn’t until 1982, with 4 swans, although the count started in 1975. The swans were only recorded on 5 of the first 15 SDCBCs … very intermittent visitors. They have been recorded every year since 1989, slowly increasing. The count didn’t pass 50 swans until 2008, and didn’t pass 100 swans until 2016. Adult swans have few predators and suffer mainly from collisions with power lines and lead poisoning from ingestion of lead birdshot. They are most vulnerable as cygnets.
The young remain with their parents in family groups until forming monogamous pair bonds of their own, usually at age 3 or 4. Males may not re-mate after losing their partner. Some populations remain at risk from poor quality breeding habitat, and continued loss of wintering habitat, making it necessary to manage individual flocks and collect ongoing data. In Sequim today, as many as 200 Trumpeter Swans are monitored closely each winter by Olympic Peninsula Audubon Society Swan Study volunteers in a Community Science project led by Laura Davis and Liam Antrim. Data are collected on weekly surveys of the swans’ daytime foraging areas, as well as obvious injuries and mortalities. These data are shared with regional and national monitoring programs. This OPAS study led to identification of power lines that pose collision hazards to the swans due to their proximity to fields and wetlands used by the swans. Those power lines have been marked with reflective tags the swans can easily see, and collisions seem to have decreased. Liam and Laura will be presenting an update on the OPAS Trumpeter and Tundra Swan Study at the February 19th OPAS membership meeting.